RAINDANCE 2014 DAY 3 pt 1|The Ultimate Accessory + Amira & Sam

The Ultimate Accessory

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Another film about the french bourgeoisie and their ridiculous, selfish ways and beautiful clothes and apartments. The Ultimate Accessory (100% Cashmere) is a backward romantic/black comedy about a well to do couple who literally buy an orphaned boy from Russia, in an attempt to check it off what I can only envision as a mental list of things to do: Be rich, own a nice apartment, wear nice expensive clothes, eat out all the time, have extramarital affairs… oh and have a child. It’s never really explained until the last half of the film why they want a child, and if they in fact have any love to give that isn’t taken up by their own selfish ways.

Charming and so very liberal in that conventional French way the rest of the world is both frustrated and envious of, Fashion Editor Aleks (Valérie Lermercier) and her ruggedly handsome Art collector husband Cyrille (Gilles Lellouche), spend the course of the film never actually taking real care of their new purchase. They haven’t even bothered to learn how to speak Russian. It’s unbearable, the two leads are unlikable; they’re extra-marital affairs (both bring on potential pregnancies outside of the marriage) are never called into question (and why should it? they’re French!) everyone around them is similarly clueless and living in a world that begs to question – is this perhaps the directors intention? Also penned by Lermercier, The Ultimate Accessory could be a bold criticism of the new self-serving French elite. Except it’s not. Because, despite questionable law breaking actions, flippant and offensive humour, implausible, ethically and morally effacing actions  -that see their adopted child abandoned and bought again – at the end everyone still gets what they want, and everyone lives happily ever after. Visually it’s hard to ever dismiss a French film for being badly made, this is no exception, everything in the scenes is lit up and framed beautifully. But a waning lacklustre script is too hard to ignore.

 Amira and Sam


This is it. Maybe i’m speaking to early, but this is my raindance film of 2014. Amira and Sam written and directed by Sean Mullin, is a beautiful reconstructed love story with a nod to conversations on multiculturalism in the western world and an increasingly renegade capitalist culture. But for all that’s wrong with the world, there is the truly undeniable love between Amira and Sam.

Opposites do attract, although never one so immediately apparent as seeing a decorated ex soldier holding hands with a woman wearing a Hijab. It doesn’t quite make sense, because unfortunately in 2014 this isn’t something we’re used to seeing on-screen.

Ex soldier, Sam Seneca has returned to New York from the Middle East after a decade serving his country. He’s not mentally or physically wounded – as most films would have you believe all soldiers are – but he is struggling trying to find his place back in a society that seems to want to welcome him back and yet doesn’t know what to do with him. Amira is experiencing her own problems trying to make a living whilst ducking the  courts who want to deport her back to Iraq. She’s an illegal immigrant; in an ironic and cruel, but probably not uncommon, twist she can’t return to her country because of her family’s involvement with aiding the US military. When they first meet, it’s not a pleasant union, mainly due to Amira’s defensive nature and sharp wit but she’s met her match in the equally sharp-witted but placated Sam. Years of keeping his cool in explosive situations means he’s dealt with a lot worse.

After a series of external troubles rooted in Sam’s ethical beliefs and an inability to fall in line with corporate America’s game having come from a world where the belief his to serve his country and fellow-men. Amira doesn’t belong in Iraq any more than Sam belongs in the corporate world he is offered to be apart of: together they are orphans of what some believe to have been  a pointless war. But they are luckier than most to have found each other.  There’s a delightful and expert mix of improvised banter (delivered with ease from Starr and Shihabi) and a poignant, well written script that never threatens to waiver in favour of a wholly over the top romantic premise. Writer and director Sean Mullins film draws on experiences of his own (Mullins himself an ex-serviceman dabbled in comedy – he makes a cameo in film as comedy club host) and never takes liberties for the sake of the story (Shihabi originally Saudi Arabian, had to learn the Arabic dialogue commonly used in Iraq).

In the face of an increasingly multicultural world but one that is perhaps more paranoid than ever, Amira and Sam is  a love story and it works better than any love story I’ve seen this year… probably in the last five years, maybe even longer. Because finally in this diluted, repetitive genre – hijacked mainly by beautiful but clumsy female leads and oversubscribed male leads – we have something fresh. That is what film is about, bringing something new and exciting to the table – it’s not an original concept, but it’s something to talk about. Martyn Starr takes the lead after a long career which has seen him often as the secondary or even tertiary socially inept friend in a Judd Apatow/Seth Rogan film. As Sam he’s a plausible all American Ex- soldier, and he’s endearing, easy to fall in love with and very funny. Dina Shihabi is a rising star. I can’t wait to see what she does  next because this film off the back of graduating from NYU is an impressive debut. Beautiful and effortless wit she’s instantly likable and enjoyable to watch on-screen. With a superb cast, what Mullin’s has created with Amira and Sam is a story about two people who the audience will truly care about; we end up falling in love with them.


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